Best Performances Of October 2021, Film Companion

This is a monthly series where we highlight standout performances from the film and streaming space. Since Film Companion watches widely, we decided to curate this list, foregrounding exceptional work, even if they did not have the proverbial spotlight on them.

Umashree, Rathnan Prapancha

Streaming Platform: Amazon Prime Video

Saroja of Rathnan Prapancha is the quintessential mother — irritating, old-fashioned, overbearing and loud. For much of the first act, we see the film’s protagonist despise her existence. Yet, we don’t quite hate her because Umashree, who plays Saroja, breathes life into the character. When she’s farting loudly, calling his son incessantly, demanding mint candy or faking an ailment, she’s funny and endearing as much as she’s intolerable. Umashree makes Saroja real, without which the protagonist’s redemption would have been hollow.

Vicky Kaushal, Sardar Udham

Streaming Platform: Amazon Prime Video

A lot of Vicky Kaushal’s titular performance shines through the lens of hindsight. The non-linear narrative and restrained mood can be tricky for statement-making performances, but Kaushal trusts his unassuming persona to lend a new and unsettling dimension to the freedom-fighter biopic. His subdued body language humanizes a character that resists the extravagance of his legacy. The last hour – the Jallianwala Bagh massacre – is a masterclass in reactive and body acting; it’s the moment Kaushal suggests that the josh doesn’t need to be loud to be felt.

Pavan Malhotra, Tabbar

Streaming Platform: SonyLIV

In what will go down as one of the finest Indian performances of 2021 across mediums, old warhorse Pavan Malhotra provides a near-novelistic rhythm to retired police constable Omkar Singh: a man who weaponizes the trappings of middle-class morality. Malhotra plays Omkar as a stoic everyman plowing through a Bollywood premise – flitting between patriarch and protector, victim and perpetrator. In the process, Malhotra aces the role of a lifetime – as though it was just another day in his long and underappreciated acting career.

Also Read: Tabbar, On SonyLIV, Is A Well-Crafted Ode To The Trappings Of Middle-Class Morality

Best Performances Of October 2021, Film Companion

Gagan Arora, Tabbar

Streaming Platform: SonyLIV

As older son Happy – the apple of his father’s eye and first-bencher-faced IPS aspirant – Gagan Arora turns something as unremarkable as a persistent limp into a damning metaphor of decay. Arora plays Happy as a boy under the spell of the Great Indian Family syndrome, struggling to be the achiever and silently rebelling by participating in a life of duplicity and crime. His sweaty, tense gait – the kind you usually associate with serial exam givers – defines Happy’s transformation from boy to murky man, even as he stays under the spell of a father who expects the world from him.

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